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Choosing a chicken breed

The bird's purpose and even egg color may be a deciding factor

Starting a backyard chicken flock is fun for the whole family. The hard part is deciding on the type and breed of bird. Your reasons for raising chickens will influence your list of breeds. They’re generally grouped according to their purpose such as meat, eggs, and ornamental.

Jeff Smith is the director of sales and marketing at Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, Missouri. He says choosing birds for the egg color they produce has become a popular trend, especially those called “olive eggers”.

"It’s not really a breed, it’s actually a hybrid or cross, but you’re basically breeding parent stocks that one parent might have a real true blue egg it produces as a true breed, and then the other parent will have a real dark egg," says Smith. "So, you breed those two together, and that first generation will produce an olive egg-type color."

If you have kids and a small back yard, Smith says to consider breeds that are likely to be docile and calm.

"Orpingtons generally are pretty docile and friendly and manageable, non-flighty. Brahmas, Silkie bantams, some Cochin bantams. Ultimately there’s a large percentage of the breeds that are okay for kids in backyard situations," he says. "It really boils down to are you going to spend the time with them so they become friendly?"

No matter what breed you choose, be sure to provide them with the best feed available for overall health. Egg layers need calcium and nutrients for egg production. Meat birds require a complete feed with high levels of protein for rapid growth and overall meat quality.

Learn more on finding the right chicken breed for you

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